Tag Archives: Major scale

How to Modernize a Hymn – Part one of a two part series


How to Modernize a Hymn – Part one of a two part series

I don’t think there are many Christians, even those who use nothing but Contemporary music, that doubt or question the depth and the beauty of the lyrics contained in our wealth of hymns. But sometimes, they are difficult to comprehend or are just too musically foreign to those that we are Called to reach.

There is a process to modernize these hymns and to put chords to them but it’s not easy to do and there are a lot of subtleties that only come with experience and knowledge. In this two-part series, I will try to address one basic approach to do this.

In this first installment, we will consider a step-by-step approach written for a beginner’s level and the second installment will show an example where these types of techniques have been used successfully.

So let’s start…

Step One – Put Chords to it

Here is the process you will need to add your own chords:

  1. Identify the key signature by looking at the number of sharps and flats.

No sharps or flats – key of C or Am
1 Sharp – key of G or Em
2 Sharps – key of D or Bm
3 Sharps – key of A or F#m
4 Sharps – key of E or C#m
5 Sharps – key of B or G#m (rarely used)
6 Sharps – key of F# or D#m (rarely used)
1 flat – key of F or Dm
2 flats – key of Bb or Gm
3 flats – key of Eb or Cm
4 flats – key of Ab or Fm
5 flats – key of Db or Bbm
6 flats – key of Gb or Ebm (rarely used)

  1. Know the typical chords used in each key signature (these are referred to as the harmonized scales):
MAJOR SCALE   R   -   2   -    3    4   -   5   -   6   -   7 
   C  maj.:   C   -   Dm   -   Em   F   -   G   -   Am  -  rarely
   Db maj.:   Db  -   Ebm  -   Fm   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bbm -  used
   D  maj.:   D   -   Em   -   F#m  G   -   A   -   Bm
   Eb maj.:   Eb  -   Fm   -   Gm   Ab  -   Bb  -   Cm
   E  maj.:   E   -   F#m  -   G#m  A   -   B   -   C#m
   F  maj.:   F   -   Gm   -   Am   Bb  -   C   -   Dm
   F# maj.:   F#  -   G#m  -   A#m  B   -   C#  -   D#m
   G  maj.:   G   -   Am   -   Bm   C   -   D   -   Em
   Ab maj.:   Ab  -   Bbm  -   Cm   Db  -   Eb  -   Fm
   A  maj.:   A   -   Bm   -   C#m  D   -   E   -   F#m
   Bb maj.:   Bb  -   Cm   -   Dm   Eb  -   F   -   Gm 
   B  maj.:   B   -   C#m  -   D#m  E   -   F#  -   G#m 

MINOR SCALE   R   -    2      b3  -   4    -       5      b6  -   b7
   A  min.:   Am   -   Bdim   C   -   Dm   -   Em or E    F
   Bb min.:   Bbm  -   Cbdim  Db  -   Ebm  -   Fm or F    Gb
   B  min.:   Bm   -   C#dim  D   -   Em   -   F#m or F#  G 
   C  min.:   Cm   -   Ddim   Eb  -   Fm   -   Gm or G    Ab
   C# min.:   C#m  -   D#dim  E   -   F#m  -   G#m or G#  A
   D  min.:   Dm   -   Edim   F   -   Gm   -   Am or A    Bb
   Eb min.:   Ebm  -   Fdim   Gb  -   Abm  -   Bbm or Bb (B)
   E  min.:   Em   -   F#dim  G   -   Am   -   Bm or B    C 
   F  min.:   Fm   -   Gdim   Ab  -   Bbm  -   Cm or C    Db 
   F# min.:   F#m  -   G#dim  A   -   Bm   -   C#m or C#  D
   G  min.:   Gm   -   Adim   Bb  -   Cm   -   Dm or D    Eb 
   G# min.:   G#m  -   A#dim  B   -   C#m  -   D#m or D#  E
  1. Know what each line and space represent on the treble and bass clefs. (See below)

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons

4. Now the hard part. If you know the key signature by the number of sharps and flats (item 1 above), then you know the basic chords to look for (item 2), and now you should be able to identify all the notes in each grouping of chords on your sheet music by using the chart in item 3. You will also need to know the notes that comprise each chord. Here’s a little help:

A…………….A-C#-E
Am…………..A-C-E
Bb……………Bb-D-F
Bbm………….Bb-Db-F
B……………..B-D#-F#
Bm…………..B-D-F#
C…………….C-E-G
Cm…………..C-Eb-G
C# (or Db)….. C#-F-G# or (Db-F-Ab)
C#m (or Dbm).C#-E-G# or (Db-E-Ab)
D…………….D-F#-A
Dm…………..D-F-A
Eb……………Eb-G-Bb
Ebm …………Eb-Gb-Bb
E……………..E-G#-B
Em………….. E-G-B
F……………..F-A-C
Fm………….. F-Ab-C
F# (or Gb)……F#-A#-C#
F#m (or Gbm).F#-A-C#
G…………… G-B-D
Gm………….G-Bb-D
Ab………………Ab-B-Eb
Abm……………Ab-Bb-Eb

5. Many hymns that don’t have guitar chords do so for a reason, and typically it is because every note in the melody line theoretically requires a different guitar chord. If this is the case, your song will sound too choppy with a chord change on every beat. Songs that lend themselves well to guitar accompaniment typically have a chord change at the start of the measures or sometimes at the mid-point of the measures. For example, a song in 4/4 time might have a chord change before the first and maybe the third beats. Even if you’re hymn requires a unique chord for each note in the melody line – don’t do it! If 4/4 time, stick to the chord changes on the first and third beats. Also, listen for the “strong beats” and put the chord changes on those particular notes.

6. When you have finished putting chords to a musical piece, sit back and look at the song in its entirety, as opposed to the note-by-note study that you have just finished. Look for overriding chord patterns or progressions. Sometimes, you can delete certain chords that you have identified and use fewer chords that fit into an overall theme for the song. It also sometimes helps to replace the chord names with Roman numerals and then to look for repeating patterns.

This technique should get you started. There are other more advanced issues such as numbered chords (C2, C5, Csus, C7, etc.) and slash chords (D/A, D/F#, D/G, etc.) but these can come later.

Step Two – Consider adding a Chorus and maybe a Bridge

The Chorus:
Most hymns only have verses. Lots of verses. These verses tell a story. Sometimes it’s nice to respond to these verses with either a chorus or refrain and sometimes it’s nice to alter the musical accompaniment with a bridge.

When writing a chorus, think of it as an answer to the story being told in the verse. Also, the chorus is usually sung a bit higher than the verse and with more energy. Choruses are usually the “hook” of the song; they are the part that people will remember and sing throughout the upcoming week. The chorus will have a stronger chord progression than the more fragile verses and the chorus will typically use more of the tonic key notes than in the verses. Choruses can also talk about feelings, or how you should feel about the story being told in the verses. A good example of a hymn with a great chorus that you undoubtedly know is “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Another good example would be Chris Tomlin’s recent adaptation of “Amazing Grace” with his iconic chorus “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy reigns. Unending love. Amazing Grace.” Wow!

The Bridge:
The bridge offers melodic, lyrical and even harmonic variation. Bridges can be a welcome addition to hymns because the verses and even the chorus can be very repetitive. Oftentimes, bridges in songs written in major keys start with a minor chord and vice versa, and they almost never start with the tonic chord.

Next you will need a formula for the structure of your new hymn. Consider something like:
Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Chorus, Bridge, Verse 4, Chorus, End

But there are unlimited combinations.

Step Three – Consider updating the lyrics

Read through the hymn lyrics. If they are in our CW hymnbook, they will be pretty awesome. However, some hymns use too many churchy words, too many archaic words, phrases no longer in use, old English, phrases that just didn’t translate well into English from the original language the hymn was written in and what I’ll call reverse poetry. Keep all these things if the hymn sings well and makes sense to you. Only make changes if the lyrics require you to research and study them immensly before you get the picture. Our hymnal has actually already come a long way. There were massive revisions between our current hymnal and it’s predecessor so you might be OK in this regard.

If you change lyrics, make sure that you do not change the message, the rhythm, or the meter (the number of syllables per measure). You may find a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus to be helpful in this regard.

Step Four – Consider adding a Musical Turn Around

Most hymns just seem to run into a musical brick wall at the end of a verse and then awkwardly go back to the beginning. Update this! Add a short musical turn-around, perhaps just a measure or two, but find a way to musically tie the ending back to the beginning.

I know that many of you reading this post are in my denomination and have probably heard the band known as “Branches.” They have a great example of a musical turn around in their arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” Just listen to Andy Braun and the band use a few simple chords to turn the end of each verse into a transition to get back to the beginning and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Braun’s turn-around makes an incredible hymn even more incredible and that’s the point of this effort.

Step Five – Consider Jazzing it Up

There are many ways to do this. Consider modulating the last verse up or down a whole step, or even a minor third, depending on the mood of the song. Or, take an instrumental break in between verses or simply add an intro. Another idea would be to use some chord extensions like ninths, elevenths, thirteenths or even major sevenths. Another thing you can do is add a few slash chords with inherent bass runs to connect the chords together.

Step Six – Say a Prayer of Thanks; you’ve made it.

Whew! That was a lot of work; but that hymn you’re considering redoing is worth it.

Tomorrow we will consider an example. “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” that was redone by musician Michael Schroeder in 2010.

A Major to Minor Chord Trick


A Major to Minor Chord Trick

Guitar Level: Advanced

English: Circle of fifths Italiano: Circolo de...
Image via Wikipedia

The circle of fifths tells us that certain major keys are related to certain minor keys.  For example, the key of C major and A minor have no sharps or flats.  Similarly, the keys of G major and E minor both have only one sharp – the F# note and the keys of D major and B minor share the same two sharps.  This also implies that the chords are related and that they often occur together in many songs.

There is an amazing chord trick for guitarists to change quickly and easily between these related chords.  Let’s use the change from Bm to D as an example.  It only requires moving one finger.  Here’s the pattern:
Bm 224432     (first finger barred at the second fret)

And here’s what most beginning and even intermediate guitarists don’t know.  You can change this Bm chord to a D major chord by only moving one finger – the pinky.  Here’s the D chord (it’s really a D/F# if all 6 strings are played):
D 254232        (first finger barred at the second fret)

The trick is to take your pinky off the third string, forth fret, and put it on the fifth string, fifth fret; which by the way, is the root for the new chord.  The beautiful thing is that the new note that’s left bare after taking your pinky off the third string is a good note contained in the new chord.  You might notice that this new chord shape is really the C chord shape moved up the neck.

This is possible because these related chords only differ by one note.  In the above example, the Bm chord consists of the notes B, D and F#, and the D major chord is D, F# and A – the only difference being the change from the B to an A.

This is important to know because these related chords often occur together in many songs so having a quick and easy change is a great tool to have in your musical repertoire.

What’s more, this chord shape can be moved up the neck to learn the change between all the related major/minor chords.

Here they are:
Am – C/E:      002210 to 032010
Bbm – Db/F    113321 to 143321
Bm – D/F#      224432 to 254432
Cm – Eb/G      335543 to 365543
Dbm – E/G#    446654 to 476654
Dm – F/A       557765 to 587765
Ebm – F#/Ab  668876 to 698876
Em – G/B       779987 to 7-10-9-9-8-7
Fm – Ab/C      8-8-10-10-9-8 to 8-11-10-10-9-8
F#m – A/C#   9-9-11-11-10-9 to 9-12-11-11-10-9
Gm – Bb/D     10-10-12-12-11-10 to 10-13-12-12-11-10
Abm – B/Eb    11-11-13-13-12-11 to 11-14-13-13-12-11
Am – C/E       002210 to 032010

The common chords are shown boldface in the above list.

This was a pretty heavy duty lesson that results in an often neglected chord shape, that’s an inversion, and has a nice sounding third as its base note, so kudos to those who followed and whose pinkys are strong enough to reach this new chord shape.  Use it to God’s glory!

1-4-5


1-4-5

(actually it’s I-IV-V)

Guitar Level: Beginner

You’ve probably heard that it’s easy to learn to play the guitar.  “Teach me three chords and I’ll play almost any song.”  This is obviously an exaggeration but many songs are based on a progression involving three chords.  The formula for these three magical chords is usually 1-4-5.

Take the key of C as an example.  The scale is C_D_E_F_G_A_B_C.  The first position is the C, the fourth is the F and the fifth is the G.  A simple song in the key of C will most likely include the C, the F and the G major chords.

You can do this for all the scales and come up with the following popular chord arrangements (only the major scales are shown):

Key of A*:       A-D-E
Key of Bb:       Bb-Eb-F
Key of B:         B-E-F#
Key of C*:       C-F-G
Key of Db:       Db-Gb-Ab
Key of D*:       D-G-A
Key of Eb:        Eb-Ab-Bb
Key of E*:        E-A-B
Key of F:          F-Bb-C
Key of F#:        F#-B-C#
Key of G*:       G-C-D
Key of Ab:       Ab-Db-Eb 

*denotes easy guitar keys

Now let’s take it up a notch.  Seasoned guitarists will be intimately familiar with these chord groupings and will have a few favorite finger patterns that they like to use, or perhaps some base runs to connect the chords together.  I’ll give you a few of my favorites as an example.

For the key of G, I like to move from the C to the D chord by sometimes just moving my 032010 C chord fingering up two frets to 554030 for a real nice sounding D/A.  You can even slide the chords while they are still ringing for a slurred musical effect.  Here’s another example, in the key of A, I like to change my D shape finger pattern by barring my first finger across the first four frets at the second fret to form xx4232 and moving it up two to form an E chord 0x6454.  This is actually moving a D/F# to an E/G# without the open low E string, or if you include the open low E it becomes a more fuller E chord with a big resounding base note balanced off nicely by the upper chord tones played around the forth, fifth and sixth frets.  I actually learned this one by watching Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones play.

Here’s a similar trick for the key of C.  Try playing the F chord like this: 13321x (use a thumb wrap to grab the F on the low E string) then move this pattern up two frets to form the G (35543x) but here’s the trick; practice pulling your fingers off the F chord before grabbing the G chord.  As you pull off, the open strings should ring before you grab the G chord.  This adds a nice affect; it’s kind of like getting a partial G chord or maybe an Em11 in between the F and G chord shapes.  You can also “pull off” the G chord which might resolve nicely to whatever chord you are going to next.

There are many other riffs and tricks but I don’t want to stifle your creativity.  Play around with the 1-4-5 chord patterns and see what you can come up with.  You will notice that all three of my examples are based on the fourth and fifth chords since these are only two frets away from one another which enables you to slide from one to another.

You should also know that the I-IV-V formula came from blues and rock;  other styles of music use other formulas.  For example, a popular jazz formula is ii-V-I and usually is based on the 7 chord so in the key of C, the progression would be Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7.

Happy Strumming,

Steve

the Key of A


The Key of A

Guitar Level: Beginner

Listed in the table below is the key of A major with most of the popular guitar chords for this key.

The Key of A
I II III IV V VI VII VIII
A B C# D E F# G# A
Typical Chords A Bm C#m D E F#m G#mflat5 A
Basic Form x02220 224432 446654 xx0232 022100 244222 Not very common x02220
Typical Slash Chords A/C#x4222xA/E

002220

A/G

302220

Bm/Dxx0432 D/F#200232D/A

x00232

E/G#422xxxE/A

x02100

Typ 7 Chords A7x02020 Bm7224232 C#m7446454 D7xx0212 E7020100 F#m7242222
Other Chords You Might See A2002200Am

002210

D2xx0230Dm

xx0231

E2022200Em

022000

 

And here’s a few scale patterns in the key of A:If you are new to scales, most guitarists start with the major pentatonic because it is one of the easier ones to learn and can universally be used over a lot of different musical styles.  One way to practice soloing would be to find a song in the key of A (it will have a treble clef with 3 sharps) and gather up the chord sheets and an MP3 of the song.  First verify that the recording is actually in the key of A by playing along with it.  If it is in the key of A, and your chords are correct, you can then add a few solos by playing through the A major pentatonic scale over the recording.  First just go up and down the scale to see how it sounds over the music and depending on the complexity of the song, it might actually sound quite nice and harmonious as is.  Next, vary your pattern and jump around a little while still staying with the scale notes.  You are now on your way to learning how to improvise a solo.

Finally, here’s a little tip that I picked up so long ago I forgot who told me about it.  When practicing scales, or any solo improvisation, tie a bandana around your guitar neck, behind where you are playing.  So for the key of A, tie the bandana around the second fret.  This does two things.  First, it lowers your action a bit, making the strings easier to play, and second, it damps out any unwanted notes that you might erroneously hit.  This is a beginner’s trick, for practice only, and you will eventually want to do without the bandana.  It’s essentially a crutch but it just might be the thing that some of you beginning guitarists are looking for.

Music for Holy Trinity Sunday and How to Transpose


On Trinity Sunday, I have chosen the song ”Father I Adore You” as a song choice.  Many congregations use this on Trinity Sunday.  There are other good contemporary song choices, such as “Glorify Thy Name”, but I chose ”Father I Adore You” because there is a portion of our congregation that normally does not sing, but they will be singing this song.  I’m talking about our smallest children, and more importantly, those too young to read.  At our church, this age group knows this song from previous VBS and other children’s activities.  I think it’s important for us as worship planners to include a song that they can join in on every once in a while.

“Father I Adore You” was written by Terrye Coelho Strom, many of us WELS types know it as LAPPY # 67.

Last week, during our monthly contemporary service, a teen in the congregation approached me after worship and offered to play her guitar in future services.  Apparently she has been taking lessons and is ready to use her gifts.  I am very excited about this because it’s a teen showing an interest in participating in worship which for some reason is an age group that we find to be difficult to get involved.

But here’s the problem.  “Father I Adore You” is written in the key of F and includes the chords: F, Gm and C.  Not a big deal for most guitarists, but for a beginner, the F and Gm chords can be difficult.  Here’s the solution: transpose.

In this instance, usually the best thing to do is to transpose down to a more guitar-friendly key, then use your CAPO to lift the pitch back to the original key.  For example, let’s transpose this song down to the key of D.  To find the new chords, we need to write down both of the major scales (F and D) as follows:

Original Key:  F  G  A    Bb  C  D  E    F
New Key:       D  E  F#  G    A  B  C#  D

Next, find the original chords in the original key (upper row), then read the new chords, in the new key directly beneath the original chords.  For example:

F becomes D
Gm becomes Em
C becomes A

The new chords are now D, Em and A which are all very easy to play.

The last thing we need to do is to find the CAPO position.  Remember that we lowered the key from F to D, which is 3 half steps (just count the number of frets between the F and D note on any one string). This means that we need to raise our pitch by 3 half steps so the CAPO needs to go at the third fret.

And here’s a neat trick; if you have two guitarists, let one play in the key of F and have the second guitarist play it in the key of D at the capo 3 position.  This will add some color and different chord voicings to your music.  Also, check your guitar tuning with the CAPO in place as this will sometimes throw your tuning off.

For future reference in transposing, here are all the major and minor keys:

MAJOR SCALE   R   -   2   -   3   4   -   5   -   6   -   7
   C  maj.:   C   -   D   -   E   F   -   G   -   A   -   B
   Db maj.:   Db  -   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bb  -   C
   D  maj.:   D   -   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -   B   -   C#
   Eb maj.:   Eb  -   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   -   D
   E  maj.:   E   -   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -   C#  -   D#
   F  maj.:   F   -   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -   D   -   E
   F# maj.:   F#  -   G#  -   A#  B   -   C#  -   D#  -  (E#)
   G  maj.:   G   -   A   -   B   C   -   D   -   E   -   F#
   Ab maj.:   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   Db  -   Eb  -   F   -   G
   A  maj.:   A   -   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -   F#  -   G#
   Bb maj.:   Bb  -   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -   G   -   A
   B  maj.:   B   -   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -   G#  -   A#

MINOR SCALE   R   -   2   b3  -   4   -   5   b6  -   b7  -
   A  min.:   A   -   B   C   -   D   -   E   F   -   G   -
   Bb min.:   Bb  -   Cb  Db  -   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -
   B  min.:   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -
   C  min.:   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -
   C# min.:   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -
   D  min.:   D   -   E   F   -   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -
   Eb min.:   Eb  -   F   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bb (Cb) -   Db  -
   E  min.:   E   -   F#  G   -   A   -   B   C   -   D   -
   F  min.:   F   -   G   Ab  -   Bb  -   C   Db  -   Eb  -
   F# min.:   F#  -   G#  A   -   B   -   C#  D   -   E   -
   G  min.:   G   -   A   Bb  -   C   -   D   Eb  -   F   -
   G# min.:   G#  -   A#  B   -   C#  -   D#  E   -   F#  -